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We Never Learn
Savvy Soumya Misra & Ranjana Das
The script plays out practically every year. So while it is sickening to the gut, it has become par for the course.
Young men and women celebrate to ring in the New Year. The revelries take a wrong turn when a few men/ boys believe that it is ok to paw, grab, grope, and molest women around them. They think it is ok because she is drinking and hence ‘asking’ to be pawed, grabbed, groped and molested. This year too India woke up to the news of women being molested and harassed by men in New Year Eve celebrations gone wrong in Bengaluru, apparently the safest city in India.
The deplorable incident occurred in Bengaluru’s popular MG Road and Brigade Road. If the incident wasn’t enough to shock, the keepers of Indian culture came out defending the indefensible. Instead of condemning the act, they blamed the victim. First, Karnataka’s Home Minister, responsible for policing in the state, said “these things do happen”. Then, Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi argued that “if women, unaccompanied by their fathers or husbands, mingle with other men, it is wrong to expect them to treat her with respect...if there is sugar somewhere, ants will come." By the way Mr. Azmi do you recall the 16 December rape case- the victim was with a male friend. But, clearly sugar is the problem and not the ants.
Convenient. The blame, as always, was pinned on (a) western culture, and (b) women. Never mind that women are the victims. They were out drinking – of course not in our culture. They were wearing western clothes – again not in our culture. They went out with friends to celebrate and enjoy – come on which good, cultured Indian woman does that? So they better be groped and molested because they asked for it, isn’t it?
So while men may be the molesters, the society is reluctant to condemn them. They are innocent and naïve who were ‘encouraged’ and ‘instigated’ by ‘wayward women’. Women are meant to stay indoors even during celebrations. They aren’t supposed to go out partying at night like men, their fellow beings. They aren’t supposed to dress up the way they chose to. Actually unless a woman is clad in plate armour, she will always show as a blip on the rape radar. (But then you never know).
Ergo, women under western influence deserve rape and molestation. Never mind that women aren’t just molested and raped at parties alone, they are attacked while going to school, colleges, and work, at the marketplace, in a petrol pump and inside their very homes.
They ‘deserve’ it and ‘ask’ for it is always every time and everywhere. Men make all the rules and women are as good as nought. For starters, women to them are mere objects – objects devoid of any intelligence, self-respect, emotions and freedom. They know of women in set roles as either someone who pampers them (mothers), lauds over them (sisters), serves them (wives) or obeys them (daughters). A thinking, independent, defiant, free, and self-respecting woman is a mystery to them. In a manner of speaking, she is a beast they don’t know what to do with.
Never mind that women do everything that men can do and more, and are better than men in several aspects. However, while women have evolved, men (and society at large) refuse to come out of the shell of patriarchy and social norms. Social norms that tell them that it is ok to disrespect women and perceive them as sexual objects. Social norms that permits men to outrage women and girls modesty at public place. Social norms that will never question men and boys for their acts. Above all, social norms that justify violence against women and girls (a human rights violation).
The Bengaluru incident and each and every incident of violence against women and girls – domestic violence, molestation, rape, and harassment has to be strongly condemned. And furiously averted, we must add. Men should begin with acknowledging women as fellow human beings and not objects, definitely not sugar. Men and boys should understand – and if they can’t understand then be told – that it is absolutely wrong to impose themselves on someone else because it is a human rights violation. Politicians and bureaucrats should stop believing that women ‘ask’ for it. The police should bring the perpetrators of violence to the book. The society should stop absolving men of their unruliness, misdemeanor, and ill-behaviour. The society will have to stop justifying men and their misgivings in the garb of social norms.
It’s time men evolved. It’s time we buried patriarchy and social norms that allow men to perpetrate violence against women and get away with it.
Photo credit: Sharbendu
Written by: Ranjana Das Programme Coordinator Odisha, Oxfam India, Savvy Soumya Misra Research Coordinator, Development Practices, Oxfam India
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